Streaming Fatigue Is Real, So I’m Rebuilding My DVD Collection 

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This phase of media streaming is grim, and it seems to get worse every day. The time browsing multiple streaming platforms, wading through algorithmically-curated garbage. The titles that are erased from streaming services so that media corporations can get out of paying creators their residuals— or for tax breaks. The television seasons that are altered or incomplete due to licensing issues or censorship. The rising subscription costs and fluctuating picture quality. I want out. 

Despite the headache, Americans households that subscribe to streaming video entertainment services said they on average spend $61 per month for four services, according to Deloitte’s latest annual Digital Media Trends report. I calculated which streaming platforms my household (which includes my partner and several family members) spends on subscriptions for Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock and Shudder, and discovered that it totaled almost exactly $61/month. Is it worth it? 

It depends on who you ask. According to the same survey, 36% say the content available on streaming video services is not worth the price. Even as the value of streaming services are questioned by consumers, subscription fees continue to surge. Last year, the same survey found that households spent only $48/month on streaming services. That jump is not insignificant, with households spending $156 more this year on streaming.

For those who remember the years leading up to the streaming wars (the aughts to mid 2010s), DVDs came with their own charm, rituals, and features— the confidence of knowing that you’ll always have the movie to rewatch or lend to a friend, the bonus content like director commentaries, deleted scenes and alternate endings, the peace of mind of no recurring subscription fees, and the physicality of organizing DVDs on a shelf and popping it in your DVD player. But as the promises of streaming grew too convenient to resist, most DVD collectors began selling or donating their unwanted discs to clear up space. During this time, my personal DVD and Blu-ray collection shrank from about 300 titles to less than 75.

Now, I regret it. As I’m re-assessing what kind of consumer I want to be in this lawless media landscape, I long for simpler days and have decided to embark on a simple year-long experiment.

via GIPHY

The Experiment: $30/Month Budget On Movies For One Full Year

Why $30/month? For one, it’s half the cost that most households spend on streaming in the U.S. And since Amazon Prime Video ($14.99/month with Amazon Prime) and Netflix ($15.49/month without ads) are the two most popular streaming services and together cost $30/month, setting the budget at this amount felt like the sweet spot. Originally, I wanted to fully commit, by going without streaming altogether for a year. But since my streaming subscriptions are shared with various family members, that would be impossibly restrictive. 

How do I expect this to go? Last month, I told a friend about my idea for the year-long experiment. He responded: “$30? What’re you going to get like one Blu-ray a month?” It was a fair question, considering the rising costs of physical media. Browsing new releases on Amazon that I’d like to add to my collection only validated my coworker’s concerns:

  • Warner Archive Collection just released a Blu-ray double feature with “Scooby-doo on Zombie Island” and “Scooby-doo! Return to Zombie Island” in one set for $16.99, more than half my budget. But I like that it’s two Blu-ray movies in one. 
  • “Kim’s Video,” which pays homage to the iconic New York City video store, was just released on Blu-ray for $27.99, or basically my entire budget. This would be the case for essentially any movie released by a boutique DVD distribution company (such as Criterion). 
  • Worst yet are box sets. Mubi recently released Lars von Trier’s “The Kingdom Trilogy” on Blu-ray for $60. Even though it’s three movies in one, that’s still twice my budget. So this experiment would essentially mean a year without new box sets. 

Okay wait, what’s the point exactly? First and foremost, the purpose of this experiment is fun. I love thrifting movies and curating mini collections. I love lending movies to friends and trading titles with other collectors. I love the thrill of the hunt and the intrigue of discovering a movie I’ve never heard of. 

I guess I’m a cinephile. But if you follow along, you’ll find that I’m not trying to build a collection to show how deep I am about classic, foreign, or obscure cinema. This is for me; these selections will be determined by the unpredictable whims we experience as consumers of art and entertainment. If I’m feeling nostalgic, all of my budget for one month might go to childhood favorites. If I’m feeling scholarly or curious, one month might be all documentaries. Leading up to Halloween, I’ll probably focus on stocking my horror collection more. One month, I might get singularly obsessed with an actor or director and allocate a month’s budget to their filmography.

At the end of the day though, I’m building a collection of films specifically curated to my interests. I don’t believe that any DVD is a “must own” or an “essential addition to any movie collection.” Thus, you won’t see me scouting out movies like “The Godfather,” “Schindler’s List,”  or “The Shawshank Redemption” just because the film community deemed them imperative. 

So what will be my strategy? Put simply, my goal is to get as many great movies as I can within the budget. I’m very thrifty when it comes to second-hand media and home goods. And I’d be extremely disappointed if I set out to spend $30 on growing a new DVD library and returned with fewer than ten solid titles. So the challenge becomes: Where do I find films for dirt cheap without wasting time or going too far out of my way?

I live in Los Angeles. Within walking distance of my apartment are about five public bookcases (sometimes called “Little Libraries”); a few also occasionally contain DVDs. Because I live a few miles outside Hollywood, I’m also within walking distance of two FreeBlockbuster boxes, which will enable me to trade unwanted DVDs asynchronously. There are also two thrift stores within walking distance of my work (one Goodwill and one community thrift store) as well as two thrift stores located on my way home from work (another Goodwill, another local thrift store).

I am also pretty good at finding good deals on eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace, although rising shipping costs make online orders less desirable these days. So patronizing four different thrift stores (all near my work or commute) and five public bookcases at least once per month will be my starting point, in addition to occasionally browsing local listings (such as Craigslist).

Final thoughts

In one year as this experiment wraps, I’d like to have developed a respectable film collection that I’ll integrate into my current library. But more importantly, I want this to be a practice: in personalized curation, in budgeting, in indulging my curiosity, and in resisting the current anti-consumer state of media streaming. The 12 month-experiment will be chronicled at the end of each month right here on Retro Chronicle. The comments section is open, and I hope you follow along.

Do you spend more each month on streaming or physical media? Discuss in the comment section below.

via GIPHY

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